you may not be able to judge a book by its cover…

…but what about by its introduction?

Over the weekend I read the first chapter of David VanDrunen’s new book Living in God’s Two Kingdoms: A Biblical Vision For Christianity and Culture. Chris has glowingly reviewed it (at some length). And various snippets are appearing around the web.

Since I’ve only read one chapter, I’m in no position to make any definitive pronouncements. But I do want to share my gut discomfort with what appears to be a key distinction VanDrunen introduces on p 26:

Scripture … requires a distinction between God’s providential sustaining of human culture for the whole of the human race and his glorious redemption of a chosen people that he has gathered into a church now and will gather into the new creation for eternity.

In a sense, this distinction is unobjectionable — as far as it goes. I don’t think that we’d want to invest every action or occurrence in the history of the world with redemptive significance. Not that God doesn’t (providentially) sustain and govern his world. Simply that not everything is invested with the same significance as the events and occurrences picked out in Scripture.

Nevertheless, it seems to me that it’s the connection between the (admittedly distinct) realities of God’s providential and redemptive action that gets big billing in the Bible. I’ve pondered this before.

Keeping it tied to redemption is certainly part of the burden of the traditional theological analysis of providence in terms of God’s governance and preservation of (as well as his co-activity with) a world he’s given its own created — and therefore dependent — integrity and independence.

Why is it important though? I’m not sure I can exhaustively say in this brief post. That’ll have to wait for a later instalment (preferably when I’ve read more of VanDrunen’s book).

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4 comments

  1. hi chris,
    have u heard about Tullian Tchividjian’s latest book Unfashionable?
    I saw it over the gospel coalition website.
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1601420854/ref=cm_rdp_product

    Besides loving God and spreading the Good News, I am really not sure about this trend of ACTIVE culture transformation. In politics, business, education, media etc… In a sense, we want to feel that we CAN DO something, but on the other hand, the truth may not be so (Col 1), we can boast in nothing.
    will def follow on such tots from u…

    1. Hi Kerri,

      Thanks for the link and recommendation. I hadn’t heard about that book.

      I think I’m with you in being a little hesitant about some of the overblown claims being made for a Christian transformation of culture. Where’s the suffering, rejected, marginalised church that follows in the footsteps of its founder?

      I’ve been spending a bit of time in 1 Peter lately. And it seems like the expectation there is that Christians won’t be culturally transformative ‘winners’ so much as culturally ambiguous ‘oddities’ — living a life that’s at once reviled and profoundly attractive.

      But within that, I think, is an expectation that Christians will actively engage with every aspect of the wider culture. The church shouldn’t be encourage dropping out — e.g., by investing heavily in creating and maintaining separate, ‘parallel institutions’. We should be faithfully present in the culture we find ourselves in. That will mean being distinctive and different, of course; but it will also presumably mean exerting some kind of positive or ‘transformative’ influence through our presence and gospel-driven engagement.

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